Why Liberal America Is Not Buying the Puritan Left Line

In what looked like a big twitter-hashtag-petition-FAIL for the Blogarrati of the Left Puritans, the Senate voted yesterday - 83 to 15 - for cloture on President Obama's tax rate and unemployment extension compromise.  Nearly 7 in 10 Americans and an identical proportion of liberal Democrats back the deal, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll.  Apparently, failing to join the rebellion are 70% of liberals and the following progressive luminaries.
  • Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
  • Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
  • Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
  • Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY)
  • Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA)
  • Senator Al Franken (D-MN)
Not only has the Senate cleared way for passage in lightening speed (never thought you'd hear the words "Senate" and "lightening speed" in the same sentence, did you?) signs of anger among House Democrats are also subsiding.

There's a reason for all this happening.  The deal does not represent an ideal situation, but it does represent practicality.  It ensures that for the price of extending tax cuts to the rich that are admittedly not needed and not stimulative to the economy, we get a 13 month extension of unemployment benefits, a one-year reduction in payroll taxes most affecting the working poor, two-year extensions for assistance and tax cuts for families and students, as well as an extension of the research and development tax credit and incentives for small businesses.

But the fact is that even in today's polarized media and clawing-on-the-chalkboard self-proclaimed representatives of the "Left" screaming against this deal, not only Americans but self-identified liberal Democrats continue to support the President on this by a 2 to 1 margin.  So no matter how much it might be the wet dream of Left puritan detractors of the President to stop this deal, there is no popular support for derailing it.  And they know it.

So what accounts for this large divide between the purported progressive spokespeople, such as Keith Olbermann, Markos Moulitsas, Chris Bowers, Jane Hamsher, Adam Green etc. and the actual liberal base of the Democratic party?  Well, for one thing, people in the actual liberal base still have to watch their wallets.  They have to think about what would happen if someone in their home lost a job, or is already on unemployment, how they might have to make a choice between paying the mortgage, feeding their kids and heating their home.  That's why ordinary Americans who have to worry about the real economy in the real world are speaking with one voice here.  It's because intuitively on pocketbook issues, progressives and liberals can see this:

Obama tax compromise - Republican vs Democratic priorities

Yes, the Republicans extracted, as a price for investing in America and helping those most in need, a boondoggle for the ultra wealthy.  But if you look at the Democratic priorities, even beyond the big ticket items of unemployment benefits extensions and a payroll tax cut to help the working poor, we have an extension of the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit (and contrary to what Rachel Maddow has intimated, the Republicans voted en masse against the expansion of the child tax credit in the stimulus package last year), the research and development tax credit, equipment expensing for small businesses, and what should be a top issue for progressives everywhere: renewable energy grants.  Climate Progress reported on the clean energy provisions:
This provision, commonly referred to as Section 1603, enables companies to receive cash grants in lieu of production or investment tax credits for renewable electricity projects if they lack the tax liability to use tax credits. The inability of renewable companies to use tax credits has been a big impediment to clean energy investments since the financial collapse in September 2008.

If Sec. 1603 expires at the end of 2010, the immediate layoff of at least 15,000 employees could occur. Additionally, without Sec. 1603, the U.S. Partnership for Renewable Energy Finance estimates that $24 billion worth of clean energy projects “will not proceed.”
There's chance yet that the Congress can make this even better by adding another $2.5 billion in Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit (as provided under the Recovery Act).

The bill being advanced through the US Senate right now also does something important for jobs.  No progressive would argue that providing fat tax cuts to the rich is the most effective way of creating jobs, and that is not what we are talking about here.  We're talking about the extended unemployment insurance which will help the unemployed continue to put money into the market for necessities, payroll tax cut which due to its nature will spur spending among those who are in the toughest economic conditions as well as the middle class, the extensions of the middle class tax cuts - both from Obama and from Bush - the energy tax credits, equipment expensing, etc.  The Center for American Progress released an analysis showing a job growth of 2 million just due to this package, and they provided a breakdown of which provision creates how many jobs.

CAP analysis on tax deal and job creation

Manufacturers are also optimistic that this deal will create more manufacturing jobs in America, and Treasury estimates that the accelerating expensing provision can pour in $50 billion in private investments.  What's more, the people who have the power to hire people but have been sitting on cash thus far, came around to expecting more hiring next year just around the time of this deal:
Optimism among U.S. chief executives in the fourth quarter rose to the highest level since the start of 2006 as business leaders projected increased sales, investment and hiring, a private survey showed.

The Business Roundtable’s economic outlook index climbed to 101 after falling in the previous quarter for the first time since the beginning of 2009, the Washington-based group said today. Readings higher than 50 coincide with an economic expansion. The gauge, which increased from a third-quarter reading of 86, rose to 102 in the first quarter of 2006.

Forty-five percent of respondents said they will add to payrolls, an increase of 14 percentage points, while 80 percent said they expect sales will grow in the next six months, up from 66 percent in the third quarter. [...]

Fifty-nine percent of executives said they plan to spend more on equipment, up from 49 percent, the survey showed.
Spending on equipments, in turn, creates jobs in companies that make those equipments - both in manufacturing and in sales.

So, that's what this package does.  Are there better options and better, more cost effective ways to accomplish the same goals? In an ideal world, yes. But the American people, as much as American liberals who live on Main Street, understand that we don't live in an ideal world, and that President Obama had to make this deal in order to prevent the American people from being harmed.  I think that Main Street liberals and progressives  understand that.  Intuitively, they know that making the rich pay more cannot be a higher principle than protecting the poor, the middle class and the unemployed.  They know that investments in clean energy are essential.  Most of all, we understand the overriding objective of helping the economic recovery and job recovery, rather than stalling it over some ideological battle.

And that's why liberal America is not buying the Professional Puritan Left line.